UFO Balloons, Chinese Lanterns & Misidentifications
UFO Balloons, Chinese Lanterns & Misidentifications
Identified Flying Objects (IFOs)
Lights In The Sky (LITS)
I have been aware of UFO Balloons and their inevitable misinterpretation as UFOs since (at least!!) back in 2005. However it wasn't until 2006 that I first thought about writing something due to the UFO Balloon sightings and subsequent UFO reports showing signs of being a real problem in future years as the release of these balloons at celebratory events -such as weddings- was/is escalating dramatically. I also researched them quite a bit as one of the sightings that received a lot of media coverage in 2006 literally drifted straight over my residence at the time.
2007 saw another increase of these ‘UFO Balloons' and more importantly the media started to take a real interest which peaked in July with the Stratford UFO report and never really dipped, now we're into 2008 and it seems as if these UFO-Balloons are becoming the most misidentified aerial object of the minute and shows no signs of easing up. Also as the summer months are upon us I can see no immediate relief from UFO-Balloons/Fire lanterns in the near future.
This particular IFO has as many names as it does guises, although essentially they are all centred on the simplest of concepts, this being that ‘hot air' rises. For the purpose of this post I will call them simply lanterns but they do have many other names, such as:
Kung Ming Lanterns,
Khoom Fay (Thai) Lanterns,
(Wedding) Party Balloons,
It's claimed that they can be traced all the way back to around 200AD but back then they were called, "Kung Ming lanterns," as it's claimed they were invented by Zhuge Liang (Kung Ming) during the Three Kingdoms period (184-280 A.D.) as way of communication during war time. Lanterns were traditionally manufactured using rice paper over a bamboo frame, with the heat source being a paraffin soaked rag suspended under the lantern.
In the last century these lanterns are known to have been crudely manufactured by people using readily available household items such as lightweight transparent laundry bags, drinking straws, birthday candles and wire. There's also a reference to a similar construct in the Condon Report, it states that:
“They [investigators] learned by further inquiry that the balloon had been a polyethylene suit bag about two by three feet, with balsa cross-members supporting six small candles and a cup of lighter fluid”.
That particular incident is from 1968, but I think it's fair to say that the lanterns have been around in the UK since the 80's and have become increasingly popular over the last three years (2006, 2007 & 2008).
This isn't an attempt to debunk all similarly structured UFO sightings, in fact it's exactly the opposite. I can see that in the not too distant future that this prosaic explanation will be welcomed with open arms by lazy debunkers and has no doubt already been added to their armoury, meaning that we'll soon be seeing it used by pseudoskeptics to explain the vast majority of UFO sightings, plus it looks set to become a bigger problem than Venus in terms of misidentification by the general public.(I've already seen them likened to the new, ‘swamp gas' if only it were that straightforward, unfortunately swamp gas is localised and so I feel a better comparison would probably be the new ‘Venus').
So hopefully after reading this article and watching the accompanying media then you'll be more familiar with these lanterns and their various guises, and more readily able to recognise their somewhat distinctive characteristics. I will also highlight three media-covered UFO reports from Loughton (2005), Sunderland (2006) & Stratford (2007) that I personally believe were the direct result of releasing these lanterns, and in fact is widely accepted as such by all except the most hardened believers.
UFO-Balloon/Fire Lanterns Compilation Video
A video of two separate balloon launches along with a snippet of the Stratford 2007 sightings and also a few media related stories.
Loughton, Essex: September 10th 2005 – UFO Balloons Reported As UFOs
This was one of the earliest UFO Balloons sightings which captured the attention of the media, granted that a great deal more attention was lavished on the event once it had been accepted that they were in fact balloons but it garnered its fair share of media attention nonetheless.
Here's the relevant UFO sighting report originally submitted to HBCC UFO research then reproduced by UFOINFO.
UFO SIGHTING REPORT
LOUGHTON, ESSEX, ENGLAND
September 10th 2005
More Witnesses To The Loughton Essex, UK UFO Sighting
HBCC UFO Research Note: Mr. John Hayes and HBCC UFO Research are starting to receive a number of reports from area residents who witnessed the unusual event that unfolded over Loughton Essex, UK on September 10, 2005. Also other reports are coming in for more sighting which took place starting at the beginning of September right through until September 10, 2005. I would like to request once again, anyone who has witnessed any sighting from the beginning of September up until September 10, 2005 would you please contact myself or UFOINFO.
Date: September 10, 2005
Time: 8:50 p.m.
Message: Hi, the UFO sighting at Loughton on Saturday night was directly above my house. I have a slightly different story so thought you might like me to share it. I have been checking the internet since Saturday evening hoping to find others that saw it but with little joy. Firstly it was 8.50pm exactly. I would describe the UFO's as actually flying craft more than just lights in the sky they where definitely being maneuvered. I am a keen skydiver and would say I have a good eye for the height of aircraft due to this and I would place the craft a lot higher than the other witness. 30,000ft minimum. As I watched the 3 craft come across from the left they where in a large triangle formation. They slowed as they come over the nature reserve at the back of my house which is a massive expanse of land just 5 miles or so from Canery Whalf, London. The front one of the 3 stopped and the other two come very close to it. Creating a very tight triangle formation where they stayed for about one minute still at the same altitude until they broke off in different directions at which point cloud come over and I could no longer see them. It was a humbling and exciting experience. If I can add any more for you please let me know.
Hi Brian, Very difficult for me to email you a diagram but here are my answers to your questions. As I mentioned I live very close to London and there is a lot of air traffic, which I have an interest in and often watch the planes at night. There are planes from London Luton and London Stansted flying over Loughton. There is no military or research bases near us. As I was walking home I saw the objects bright orange in colour coming from the north east. Their colour was constant. At first glance I thought they where aircraft, I thought to myself how strange to see 3 planes so close together and so high. I stopped and watched and came quickly to the conclusion that they where defiantly not planes.
Moments later 3 police cars went speeding passed sirens blazing in the direction of the UFO's. I found out in Monday's National Press that these police where called out because they had been inundated with calls of UFO sightings. I thought nothing of it at the time. As I watched the 3 bright orange things come across the sky I thought maybe it was 3 hot air balloons that I could only see the gas flames from because of the darkness but the light was constant and the movement was not as that of an air balloon. At this point the UFO's where coming overhead and I was getting close to my house so I ran in and called my fiancée out to see. Together we watched the last of this stage of there flight. Up until now they had been moving in a triangular formation, 1 at the front, 2 behind. Like I say in my opinion they where very high up so this would make me assume there speed to be very high. At this time the one in the front stopped and the 2 behind come close to make a very tight triangle formation so you could only just make out they where not touching and it was a perfect triangle.
I was now certain this was no type of aircraft I had ever seen and was a UFO. They where just about directly overhead I was looking very steeply into the sky south east. There was no noise at all coming from the craft. They stayed together for at least a minute in that position. Laine ran indoors to get her digital camera and I tried to film it on my mobile phone. but just a black screen was coming out. After this at this point they flew off at high speed in three different directions but none in the direction of which they came. Clouds come over at this point and I lost sight of them. The only way I could describe the way the flew was very smooth and very controlled. When they where directly above us they where holding a perfect triangle formation without any sign of the slightest movement. From the first time I noticed them flying over towards Loughton to the moment they flew of and clouds come over was about 10-12 minutes. Completely unlike anything I have ever seen in the sky before. Hope this helps a little.
Thank you to the eyewitness for the excellent report.
And here's another report submitted to HBCC UFO Research & published by UFOINFO & UFOCasebook. Report includes video.
Posted: September 12, 2005
Date: September 10, 2005
Time: Approx: 10:00 p.m-
Approach_Direction: from the Northwest
Departure_Direction: to the Southeast
After a call from a friend telling of strange lights at around 9.30pm I went into my garden (block of flats, ground floor garden facing east) to look and saw a triangular formation of reddish/orange lights that were quite faint. I thought they were strange but as the weather was cloudy with clear patches and there was a low reddish cloud as you often get in the evenings I assumed they were bright stars and the cloud was somehow coloring them red. It was a bit weird however as I noted that no other stars that I could see through several gaps in the cloud were similarly colored.
They appeared to be fading too but as the clouds moved over the sky they were slowly covered. They did briefly shine through this cloud though and I thought this a bit odd too as again no other stars were so bright and were dimmed out completely by, even the thinner clouds.
I grabbed a small digital camera and I was ready to film the sky where they disappeared the moment that part of the cloudy sky cleared but after about 15 minutes or so it didn't seem I was likely to see that part of the sky cleared again (pretty much the whole of the sky to my front and left (from NE to ESE)was low orange cloud and to my right and some directly above was patchy clear sky)
There wasn't anything else I could do once the clouds covered the lights and I was about to give up and was heading inside when suddenly from behind where I had been looking at the light they reappeared! VERY much lower and very bright! they were also IN FRONT of the low orange cloud and moving rapidly across the sky! I switched on my camera and started filming and I was suddenly aware I was going to witness this and no one else might see it. I then shouted out loud "Everyone in the Flats Look out your windows into the sky! Look at the lights!!" as you can imagine I was delighted when at least 5 or 6 heads popped out of the windows and they too were startled by the lights. As we all watched the orange orb like lights proceeded to fly into a position EXACTLY where the other star-like lights had been earlier(to the southeast and about 60 degrees above the horizon)
I had to film by hope alone, aiming by pointing, as I could only see a black screen on my cameras LCD screen but they were so very bright and orange/yellow that I was sure something would show up. There was absolutely no sound either as far as I could hear and everyone was agreeing (a flat above had the whole family looking out,2 adults and kids)and we were trying to think of an explanation for these weird lights and no one could come up with anything they could relate these lights to.
There are many aircraft in the sky around my area as its part of the landing patterns airspace for the major airports close by (Stanstead to the North somewhere and Gatwick and London airport to the south), and we are well used to seeing them with their landing lights on but the thing is you can always hear them. There were no jet sounds or propeller or rotor blade sounds that would suggest a smaller aircraft either. There were no visible trails or an appearance of something burning etc, they were travelling far too fast for anything floating low without power like a glider, balloon or perhaps model aircraft or similar.
The fact it was below the clouds ruled out meteorite/micro meteorite and besides they don't fly in formation do they?
The one thing which might have some bearing is that we have seen a lot of rain today and several flashes of lightning followed by thunder but it was always well and truly in the distance. (Lightning-the flash type, not the bolt to the ground type- was followed several moments later by thunder indicating distance of course) from what I've seen before when they try to explain lights there is the possibility of a strange phenomenon called ball lightning?, (I have to say if anything looked ball-like it was definitely these lights!)
I am totally unable to explain these lights in terms of something simply explained and I have been an avid follower of airshows, aircraft books, documentaries etc so I'm well used to the behavior of aircraft, even those maneuvering in unusual ways and when I was younger I did a lot of astronomy and I would say I have had a lot of experience studying stars, planets, moons etc. and so I'm far less likely to make a mis-identification of anything celestial. It really is bizarre.
P.S. I reported the sighting to my local police about 11:00 pm and I was told by the lady on the desk that the police had already been called out to see these lights and they had confirmed they saw them !! It would seem a whole load of different people saw these lights too!. They could offer no explanation either and said they had checked with local airports too.
I have the film I shot in digital jpg. format at about 4.3Megabytes in size lasting some 3 or 4 minutes with around 2 of those minutes showing the 3 lights together. It is not very clear however as the digital film has a very low resolution. Its still a cool film though and better in fact than the film I saw of the Phoenix Arizona sighting which is very, very similar in that its a digital camera tracking several lights in the dark. I never dreamed Id end up having something on film like this when I saw that discovery documentary!! what now? do I need to send it anywhere? Can it be enhanced somehow?
Color/Shape: Orange/Yellow Orb Like lights very bright and luminous appearing the size of a garden pea held at arms length at first but later the size of a more brightly lit star
Height & Speed: tricky to tell but I would have to say they appeared to me to be lower than the landing aircraft (so maybe 1000 feet?) as they appeared from behind my flats but by the time they had gone they appeared to be very high and almost like a satellite moving very slowly away though and not on a steady track like they do.
The total time from when they appeared to my left to the time I could no longer see sideways movement and they appeared to be moving up was around 2 minutes but without being able to gauge distance or even altitude very well I couldn't say how fast they were traveling. I can say they moved faster than aircraft do that are in the holding pattern for their landing.
TV/Radio/Press: As its only 12.30am and I saw them a few hours ago I don't think its likely to be on TV/Radio yet, However the officer from my local police control center said the news of the world group was asking if there were any pictures to her so maybe there will be some press related news items tomorrow.
UFOINFO:- http://www.ufoinfo.com Official Archives for UFO Roundup, AUFORN Australian UFO Reports and Experiences, UFO + PSI Magazine plus archives of Humanoid Sighting Reports (Albert Rosales), Filer's Files, UFO News UK .
Additional Information: Gathered By HBCC UFO Research
Loughton UFO Report/Video - September 10, 2005
Just to fill you in on what's happened today, The sun newspaper sent a reporter to hear our story and he spoke to me and 3 of my neighbors and to see the film I shot and he was intrigued by the whole thing, he said he couldn't say if they would run with the story but that it certainly sounded very interesting and most unusual. He was going to check if there were official police reports etc and I guess we'll know tomorrow if the story is used in the paper.
Then tonight on the southeast news on ITV1 there was a report about the same lights with some footage of the very same orange lights but it was not a very good film due to the operator trying to zoom into the lights and missing out 2 of the lights mostly or creating a large blur as it went right out of focus.
My film, although also digital and with a similar low resolution (to the film shown on TV), is different in that I do no zooming or attempts to isolate a single light, I just tried to keep them in frame and keep it as steady as I possibly could, I was pretty sure the digital camera couldn't possibly gather a perfect picture at that sort of light level and it doesn't give anywhere near as detailed a picture as a normal cellulose film would have and so I concentrated on trying to gather the whole scene, some shaking at the start of my film was due to me ringing my friend back to scream at him to look in his garden again(he had gone back inside after he lost sight of the 3 star-like lights). I was also calling out to my neighbors as I held the camera up.
I'm sending you the film in a winzipped format (from 4.3mb to 958kb) so it doesn't swamp/block up your email line but if you have broadband like me I can send you the full 4.3mb version which is an exact copy of what appears on the camera.
I took a look at the compressed film and to be honest it doesn't seem to lose much info if any at all so you may not need the full film. You will notice a lot of the film appears blank after the lights fade but we could all see the faint lights by eye during the time I held the camera up so you can gauge how long it took to totally disappear by the length of the entire film.At the end of the film you will notice on the right a faint view of the upstairs windows of my block of flats which was a fully lit window and you will notice it appears very dim indeed. This should show you the sheer intensity those strange orbs of light must have had to appear so bright on such a poor light gathering camera.The film just doesn't do them justice at all, showing them way dimmer than I saw with my naked eye. My memory is of lights appearing to be very similar in intensity to looking directly at a yellow street lamp standing across a street from it. I got the same glowing halo like effect you can see when you look directly at one of those bulbs in the evenings.
I hope this helps put the film in perspective and you can agree I probably got the best information I could have hoped for with the tools at hand, I'm glad I got anything at all though as it could have been far worse and shown nothing at all. If you like I can also do a daylight tracking shot later to show how I remember I held/moved the camera and this may help you understand the distances/ area of sky etc. Let me know if you want this. I hope you like the film and I give permission to use it on your site if you feel you need to show others. Please keep me informed of any development as I'd love to learn of other sightings of the same object or any news about them or your thoughts on what they may have been?
P.S. after watching the film I thought I should add the lights appeared more round than they do on the film and I think they were 3 separate lights rather than one object with lights at the edges as you tend to think when looking at the film.The lead light also seemed far more steady than the trailing two.
HBCC UFO Research, Box 1091 Houston , British Columbia , Canada - VOJ 1ZO
And here's the follow-up explanation published by the local newspaper almost five months after the fact.
As you can see from the above newspaper article, this is the first mention of a Mr Ray Prince & his company ufo-balloons.co.uk; we will discuss Mr Prince, his products and his comments a little later on this page as he played quite a big part in the UFO Balloon 'scene' in the UK.
Separate Essex UFO Balloon Sighting - Aug 26th 2007
If you look at the image to the right of this text you will see a series of three images with the bottom two ‘lights' being totally different to the top one and the two bottom images, while more similar are themselves different.
These images are from a sighting I researched last year (Aug 26th 2007) in the Essex area, this too was concluded to be lanterns due to other witness testimony and again, due to the people who launched the lanterns being found. This particular sighting was of over 30 of these lanterns.
The interesting thing about the collection of images are they're from three separate images took one or two seconds apart, they're all of the same UFO-Balloons but look at the effect that a little, ‘camera shake' has on the resulting image. This shake is consistent throughout all of the images and due to the closeness between the time of capture it is with 100% certainty I can state that they are of the same object/s (i.e. a point light source).
(2006) UK UFO Sunderland UFO Report
UK UFO Sunderland UFO Report
Sunderland, July 2006 – UFO Balloons Reported As UFOs
This report also received a lot of media coverage as well as eliciting quotes from the MoD that (again) they were planning to investigate.
To the right you can see a still frame from the video footage that was submitted to the Sunderland Echo.
The following article is from the online edition of the Sunderland Echo that declared the intent of the MoD to investigate the sightings as well as a brief run-down of the sighting.
Ministry To Investigate UFO Light Sightings
Last Updated: 05 August 2006 9:27 AM
THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to probe UFO sightings over Sunderland and Seaham after mysterious lights appeared in the night sky. Since the Echo reported the mysterious activity earlier this week we have been contacted by more than 20 readers who witnessed the lights. They all reported seeing bright, orange-coloured orbs floating over East Durham residents and parts of Sunderland . Now, after being contacted by someone who saw nine UFOs in the sky, the MoD is to investigate.
An MoD spokeswoman said: " We examine any UFO sighting reports to establish whether there is any evidence to suggest that UK airspace has been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity ."
The probe is under way after Seaham couple Harry and Elizabeth McCall filmed the orbs flying over the town last Saturday night. Mr McCall, 67, told the Echo: " They were silent, as if they were floating. There was no noise…..It was unbelievaable and until someone convinces me otherwise, they were UFOs ."
Since then Echo readers from Westlea, Eastlea, Northlea, Deneside, Dalton-le-Dale, and Hollycarrside, in Sunderland , have reported seeing the lights.
UFO Hunters, a national organisation which researches and compiles information about sightings internationally, has also appealed for witnesses to get in touch. North East-based UFO expert Alfred Dodds receives an average of three reports a year of sightings in the region, Dodds, 68, who runs the Northumberland UFO Research Centre, has been interested in the subject since the age of 10 and has never heard of any local sightings like those made last weekend.
"There have been similar sightings, but mainly abroad…..The problem is you see is that we don't know what is being developed in technology and who is developing it…..It's mainly America, which we have seen recently in the press……There are a lot of triangle sightings, with three lights and then a larger central light. This doesn't sound like that at all……There is usually an explanation for most things, but there is about five per cent that are unexplained."
Reports to the MOD can be sent to the Directorate of Air Staff – Freedom of Information, 5th Floor, Zone H, Main Building, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2HB. A 24-hour answerphone, where people can leave a name and contact details, can also be reached at 020 7218 2140 or people can email email@example.com.
This is the somewhat lacklustre results of reporters from a local newspaper attempting to duplicate an earlier sighting.
And then four days later the culprits came forward to announce that the ‘UFOs' were in fact ‘UFO Balloons' which had been released to celebrate a local couple moving into their new house in the Seaham area. The Echo also ran this story in its entirety and the online article from the Sunderland Echo website was as follows:
The Truth Revealed!
Last Updated: 09 August 2006 1:22 PM
PARTY pranksters today admitted hoaxing hundreds into thinking alien ships were circling our skies. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched an X-Files-style probe after the Echo reported that dozens of our readers had spotted UFOs floating over Sunderland and Seaham 10 days ago.
But the truth is out there now. Seaham couple Paul McKinney and Emma Henfrey have revealed what was really in the sky that night. Paul, 28, and Emma, 30, celebrated moving into their new home in Wycliffe Road , Westlea, by holding a party for friends and set floating lanterns, bought by neighbour Quentin Carr, into the air. But the orbs, which glowed bright orange then silvery white, caused a real stir and some stargazers thought they were seeing extraterrestrial spaceships overhead. Paul was going to remain tight-lipped about the prank, but when he heard the MoD was investigating, the systems analyst contacted the Echo:
"It was an awesome experience to watch these lanterns float up and away and we never though for a second that people would think that they were aliens…..I wasn't going to say anything because I thought it was quite funny, but then my cousin saw something in the Echo about the MOD investigating so I thought I better tell…..I thought, with all that's happening in the world at the minute and the increased terrorism level in the UK I should put people's minds at rest…..Maybe there are extraterrestrials out there, but they did not visit Seaham on July 29, I can assure you."
The lanterns party-goers set off that night are on sale on the internet for about £10 and carry a manufacturers' warning that they have been mistaken for UFOs. They can fly up to 1,000ft high in the sky and look just like hot air balloons – they are made from a plastic bag, copper wire and paraffin cube which glows as the fuel burns slowly propelling the device into the air.
Witnesses who spotted the lanterns over our coast were convinced they were seeing UFOs, Harry McCall, 67, and his wife Elizabeth of Stockton Road, Seaham, reported seeing the lights, Mr McCall said:
"I said they were UFOs until I was convinced otherwise, and now I have been…..It is quite funny to find out and it's good to know an explanation."
The balloons were also spotted floating over the skies of Wheatley Hill. Ian Craggs, 50, his wife Melanie, 39, caught them on film for eight minutes. Stills of these images have been taken by the Echo.
And here's the Stratford Upon Avon UFO article by the Daily Mail which they ran in July 2007 with the headline,
“UFO sightings bring town to a standstill”.
UFO sightings bring town to a standstill
Last updated at 09:12 26 July 2007
A crowd of 100 stunned stargazers brought a town centre to a standstill when five mysterious UFOs were spotted hovering in the sky.
Drinkers spilled out of pubs, motorists stopped to gawp and camera phones were aimed upwards as the five orbs, in a seeming formation, hovered above Stratford-Upon-Avon for half an hour. The unidentified flying objects lit up the otherwise clear night sky above Shakespeare's birthplace in Warwickshire on Saturday. Although Air Traffic Control reported no unusual activity, some witnesses were convinced they were witnessing an extra-terrestrial spectacle. Crowds gathered to gawp at the strange lights that hovered silently over Stratford for 30 minutes
(Better Quality Image From Video)
The strange episode started just after 10.30pm, when the lights were seen hovering slowly over the town before three of them formed a triangular shape with one positioned just to the right. A few minutes later a fifth came into view travelling towards the others at breakneck speed before slowing down and stopping a short distance away. Sceptics dismissed the UFOs as nothing more than hot air balloons, fireworks or even lanterns which had broken loose from a local rugby club. Others, however, claimed the speed and agility of the objects was unlike any known aircraft and said the odd movement, lack of noise and the length of time in the air discounted any man-made explanation.
Tom Hawkes, who captured these amazing images, spotted the lights during his girlfriend Kate Lyall's birthday at the One Elm pub. He and the 15 other revellers were in the bar when they spotted some commotion outside. Tom, 30, said:
"We walked outside and there was at that time a growing crowd of about 60 people looking up at something in the sky.....I saw this light appear, then three others. They came over our heads in formation but then manouvered into different positions.....Three had formed a triangular shape and one was to the right. Then another one came hurtling towards the rest at what looked like a very fast speed. But as it neared them it suddenly slowed and stopped altogether.....By this time more people had poured out onto the street. Two pubs had emptied, some people had come out of their houses and drivers slowed their cars.....The objects were there for about half an hour. It was very eerie because they didn't make any sound and they stayed still before moving slowly beyond the horizon. There were no stars in the sky, just them.....It was the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen and the way in which everyone gathered in the street to watch them reminded me of a scene from Independence Day."
The extraordinary scenes were also witnessed by some of the staff of the One Elm pub.
Chef Kern Griffiths, 26, said:
"I saw five lights, we all thought they were hot air balloons at first because the glowing spheres looked like a burst of flames. But I couldn't see any outline of the balloon itself and they were travelling far too fast.....Suddenly someone shouted 'look' and there were these bright dots fizzing across the sky.....It was weird, they way they moved did look alien. Some people reckon they're fireworks but they were lit up in the sky for far too long, the local rugby club say they were lanterns that blew loose over the weekend but these objects were far too fast and too high up.....They were unlike any aircraft I've seen. It's a mystery."
Hillary Potter from The British Earth Aerial Mystery Society (BEAMS) said they were being inundated with similar calls from across the country but said it was rare for such phenomena to be witnessed by so many people, saying:
"Such incidents have been on the increase recently. There are reports at the moment coming in from all over the country.....We've had many reports of people seeing quite large unidentified objects in the skies. It's not going away, It seems these incidents are becoming more bold.....People don't know what to do when they witness such sights and that's what we're here for. We take the reports very seriously."
A Mod Spokesman said:
"The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of UFOs or flying saucer matters or to the question of the existence of extra terrestrial life forms, about which we remain totally open minded.....I should add that to date the MoD knows of no evidence which substantiates the existence of these alleged phenomena. The MoD examines any reports of unidentified flying objects it receives solely to establish whether what was seen might have some defence significance.....Namely whether there is any evidence that the UK air space might have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised foreign military activity.....Unless there is evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom from an external military source, and to date no UFO report has revealed such evidence, we do not attempt to identify the precise nature of each sighting reported to us.....We believe that rational explanations such as aircraft lights or natural phenomena could be found for them if resources were diverted for this purpose but its not the function of the MoD to provide this kind of aerial identification service."
Frankie Spray, from Wellesbourne Airfield, just outside Stratford , added:
"The lights were nothing to do with us. None of our aircraft fly at night at this time of year.....It's very bizarre but I've got no explanation as to what the lights were."
Birmingham Air Space which covers the skies over the town said they had not heard of any unusual activity showing up on the radar.
Stratford UFO Sighting (Fleet)
July 21st 2007 [Original Footage]
Above is the Stratford Upon Avon UFO Video (July 2007)
And here's the same sighting as it appeared in the 'physical' media (Newspaper) .
Original Newspaper Article (Image)
Unfortunately (and as far as I'm aware) the following article from the Stratford Herald was never actually published online but the story ran in the local newspaper a week or so after the original sightings and was as follows:
UFOs were illuminated wedding party balloons.
Report by Phillipa Prankard
The mystery of the multi-sighting of unidentified flying objects witnessed by 100 people in Stratford town centre has been solved.
Following speculation that the five bright objects which appeared in formation over the Warwick Road area at 10pm could be linked to extra terrestrial activity, a Heathcote couple has come forward to give a far more earthly explanation for the sighting. Viv and Jim James from Tamora Close, Heathcote, told the Herald that the UFOs had actually been 'sky lanterns' let off by guests at their daughter's wedding. The bemused couple said they were delighted to read that their daughter's wedding had caused so much excitement:
“I can reassure, but perhaps disappoint your readers and Hilary Potter of the British Earth Aerial Mystery Society, that these UFOs were in fact sky lanterns. These are mini air balloons which we set off from Ingon Manor golf club around 10pm last saturday evening lasting about 15 to 20 minutes until the wick burnt out…..This event caused great excitement to our guests and also it seems to others in the Stratford area. We hope they enjoyed the display.”
“Coincidentally just before setting ours off we noticed a few similar lanterns being set off two or three miles away."
The second lot of lanterns was set off by the managing director of a local fireworks company who also contacted the Herald to take responsibility for the incident. Chris Pearson, of Fantazia Fireworks in Solihul, said he had been at a friend's house in Snitterfield last Saturday evening testing Chinese hot air lanterns ahead of a wedding his company were entertaining at. He said this was not the first time he had unintentionally duped people into thinking they were witnessing alien spacecraft:
“I am sorry if I caused anyone an unneccessary scare. This is not the first time this has happened. I have let off hundreds and hundreds of these lanterns and often go out and test them ahead of an event. As a result, people have often thought they have seen UFOs.”
A man out fishing near to Stratford racecourse told the Herald he saw the five balls of light go up into the sky and immediately identified them as, 'Chinese Lanterns.'
Lewis Baldwin said:
"There was a whole fireworks display going on. The five balls were just part of it. I saw them go up and remain in the sky. I had heard about these Chinese Lanterns and knew that was what I was looking at."
Stratford UFOs or [Patty Stephens] Wedding Lanterns?
As you can see from the above article it is now know that at least THREE separate gatherings released these UFO Balloons, all of them within ‘floating' distance of the UFO sightings.
There were two different wedding parties released them as well as Chris Pearson, the managing director of Fantazia Fireworks in Solihull . All of these events are corroborated by witnesses (and confirmed by the brides parents Viv and Jim James from Tamora Close, Heathcote) as well as the video testimony from one of the weddings.
To the right of this text you can see a screen-grab of the YouTube user's page that describes the video, and directly below this text you will find the complete video of the event as posted on YouTube.
Above is the YouTube user 'PattySprout' video of the release of her Wedding Lanterns on the same night as the Stratford Upon Avon UFO sighting.
The British Earth Aerial Mystery Society (BEAMS)
The British Earth Aerial Mystery Society (BEAMS)
As well as serving to deceive the majority of the general public and ALL of the media, the lanterns also appear to have deceived several UFOlogists, in the original article it featured Hillary Potter from The British Earth Aerial Mystery Society (BEAMS) who said they were being inundated with similar calls from across the country but said it was rare for such phenomena to be witnessed by so many people, saying:
"Such incidents have been on the increase recently. There are reports at the moment coming in from all over the country.....We've had many reports of people seeing quite large unidentified objects in the skies. It's not going away, It seems these incidents are becoming more bold.....People don't know what to do when they witness such sights and that's what we're here for. We take the reports very seriously. "
Of course there's nothing wrong with that statement, but strangely enough when I was originally researching for further information on the Stratford sighting I stumbled across a quote from Kenneth Parsons, founder of BEAMS also talking about the sighting on the BEAMS website, the quote was prefixed with the following:
“Last month in Stratford-Upon-Avon in the UK , the town came to a halt when 5 mysterious lights hovered overhead for 30 minutes. They were later dismissed as mere lanterns launched by a local rugby club but at least one UFO investigator thinks that's a load of, well...space junk. ”
Kenneth Parsons on the Stratford sighting:
“I take it that you are referring to the recent Stratford upon Avon video...I don't wish to come across as rude but, lanterns my eye....I have never heard such a load of old rubbish...that's usually the standard explanation given by the debunkers to dismiss such cases.
They treat the public as idiots. I have studied actual film of the release of these lanterns and one can easily see the tell-tale flickering of the flame from the tea light reflecting into the lantern canopy, and the characteristic wobble of the lantern. They are easy to spot plus they don't hover for some time in one spot, in a neat formation, before flying off together smoothly.
So-called Chinese Lanterns are just taken by the breeze and drift anywhere. I am sick of these skeptics and others who are living in denial about this phenomenon...I hear such talk all the time. But, there is another, and far more worrying aspect to all of this. Very often, (as was the case with the local Stratford newspaper when I phoned them up about this event in an attempt to get a bit more info), we are given these excuses by the newspaper editors or even the person on the front desk to make us give up on delving further into these reports .”
UFO Balloons - The original and the only real UFO Balloon! (Text from website)
UFO Balloons: UFOBalloons.co.uk – Ray Prince
Commonly referred to as, “UFO Balloons” due mostly to UK entrepreneur Mr Ray Prince, founder of UFOBalloons.co.uk. Ray tweaked the design so as to minimize cost & weight as well as maximising lift and height, similar to its homemade predecessors the finished version achieved this by using a special lightweight heat-resistant plastic bag and a solid paraffin barbecue lighter block suspended inside on thin metal wires. Ray has stated that they were inspired by the Khoom Fay lanterns and he decided to call his lightweight and smaller version, “UFO Balloons,” Ray cites the reason for this is:
“Whilst testing the prototypes, they were invariably spotted by various people and reported in the local media as being a UFO……It was therefore decided to call finished article a UFO Balloon. I thought it was important to differentiate our copy from the original paper Khoom Fay balloons by giving our product a different name.”
I have personally contacted Ray a couple of times (summer 2007) but unfortunately due to the amount of UFO Balloons he was selling and because of the widespread locations they were being sent to Ray was unable to verify that the sightings I was enquiring about were due to his UFO Balloons and was quick, concise and polite in the correspondence we shared, Ray decided to close the website/business down in September 2007.
Ray says that:
“In September 2007 we decided to withdraw our product from sale. We had achieved our goal of producing a working low-cost miniature hot-air balloon and to introduce it to a public who had never seen anything similar.”
“With hindsight we should have probably chosen a different name because, subsequently, many people in the UFO watching community became very small-minded about our product and claimed launchings of UFO Balloons was discouraging people from reporting ‘real' UFOs…..
I think this may be Ray being a little misleading as the fact that the objects were frequently reported as UFOs was in fact a major selling point, if not THE major selling point which is evident from not only the name of the product but also by the testimonials, images and press-cuttings which used to be at the UFOBalloons.co.uk website, now however it's just a one page site with some text (which I have quoted from above).
Here are a couple of excerpts from these testimonials (ufoballoons.co.uk) which until they were removed were featured in a section titled:
“What Do Our Customers Think Of UFO Balloons?”
“We would like to point out that this product should only be used by responsibly minded people whom we hope also share our respect and passion for all things aerodynamic and pyrotechnical. So let's keep the secret in safe hands by being discerning about whom we tell. Let the mystery be known only by an elite band of enthusiasts. Let's keep the rest guessing. Let them think they've really seen a UFO…..Thank you for making this highly amusing product available to thrill and inspire those who truly appreciate the exceptional.” (G.M. – Basildon )
(A man) who works with my wife, well his brother saw them thought he had seen some UFOs. I called the Frinton and Walton Gazette the next day and reported a UFO sighting. The reporter appeared very interested even asked if I'd have my picture done where I saw these strange lights but he never phoned me back. I think where i went wrong was I should have got 3 or 4 other people to call up as well, they might have been a bit more interested then! (P.J. - Bradwell On Sea)
Certainly seems to me as if the fact that they are often mistaken for UFOs is something of a selling point, otherwise why specifically include testimonials & media reports where this is the case? I think it's unfair to try and blame any particular person or company for actively perpetrating hoaxes but I also think it's a little unfair for Ray to feign surprise when the product does exactly what it's advertised to do, i.e. fool people into thinking they are seeing UFO's.....
UFOBalloons.co.uk Promotional Video
Identifying UFO Balloons.
Mr Ray Prince also talked with UK UFO research group, ‘Anomalous Phenomena Research Agency' (APRA) about the UFO Balloons, giving specifics that should help in identifying them:
In terms of trying to identify a fire balloon as the cause of a UFO report:
"I find it very simple to identify UFO Balloons from other UFO's. They always glow whitish-yellow (atmospheric conditions can sometimes give them a reddish-orange tinge) they always travel quite slowly, and always in the same direction and speed as the prevailing wind. However, these balloons can confuse people. I know this from reading reports of sightings of my own launchings, Firstly people have no idea of perspective; People only 100 yards away from a launch position may assume the balloons are something much bigger flying some miles away! Secondly, when they eventually disappear from view, normally when the heat source extinguishes, some people will report that they 'sped off at great speed'. It all actually gives you a better insight into how people perceive things differently based on their perspective and experience of similar things. I have discussed this with Mark Dalton of Southend UFO Watchers Group and he agrees that all sighting reports have to have these 'human perspectives' taken into account.
UFO Balloons do not photograph or video very well whilst in flight. Whilst, in real life they are visually very effective, they are very hard to capture on 'film'. It is obviously something to do with the human eye being so much better than a camera. I am pretty sure that a professional cameraman with the right equipment could probably take great footage of these balloons but it hasn't happened yet to my knowledge."
"It has always been my understanding that these traditional Sky Lanterns were probably not legal in this country, because of a size restriction of any balloon with a linear length of greater than 2 metres requiring CAA approval. I must say that this requirement has been advised to me by others, and I can't find actual written confirmation of it anywhere. The CAA don't reply to my enquiries! I am also assuming that the 'linear' measurement may include a circumference measurement in any direction. Therefore I have ensured that my UFO Balloons are less than 2 metres however you measure them!!"
(It is also understood at the time of writing that the balloons are not to be released within a five mile radius of an airport)
Thanks to Isaac Koi of the ATS forum and the uk-ufo.org mailing list for pointing out the fact that the lanterns are included in a Condon Report investigation from back in 1968, Isaac also points out that the UFOlogist Allan Hendry (author of the very informative book "The UFO Handbook") refers to 14 reports of UFO caused by prank fire balloons, stating that those 14 sightings had durations of perceived flight from one to 15 minutes, also stating that Fire balloons have been discussed by the authors of several UFO books and several skeptical books.
SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
Conducted by the University of Colorado Under Research Contract Number 44620-67-C-0035 With the United States Air Force Dr. Edward U. Condon, Scientific Director
Case Studies During the Term of the Project
Investigators: Ahrens and Levine
A lighted object seen at night by several people was found to have been a plastic hot-air balloon.
It was reported to the CU project that several persons at Castle Rock had seen an illuminated transparent object drifting over the town about 6:00 p.m. Mainly because the principal witness insisted that the object appeared to be about 75 ft. long, project investigators went to the scene.
The principal witness, interviewed the following evening, reported that, while he was outdoors in the early evening, he noticed several lights in the sky that were focussed toward him. He made out a transparent object about 75 ft. long by 20 ft. wide. In a circle underneath it were about twelve lights; he judged them to be much brighter than car headlights, though they did not blind him. He estimated the object to be about 25 ft. above the ground, which it illuminated. The object appeared empty; he could see through it. At first it was stationary; then it began to drift northward over the town. He followed in his truck, stopping at a service station to tell the men there of the "flying saucer." They later reported having seen slow-moving lights that dropped several fiery objects as they disappeared north of the town.
The investigators then visited the owner of the service station, and while there heard a radio report that a local teenage boy had launched a plastic hot-air balloon at about the time of the sighting, from a location about a block upwind of the principal witness' location. They learned by further inquiry that the balloon had been a polyethylene suit bag about two by three feet, with balsa cross-members supporting six small candles and a cup of lighter fluid. Several persons at the launching saw the balloon drift over the principal witness' location.
The investigators concluded that the object of the sighting reports had been the balloon, despite the witness' exaggerated estimate of its dimensions.
As I mentioned earlier these reports show no signs of letting up by either the Lanterns or the media. In particular UK newspaper “The Sun” is dragging the subject back to the dark ages and purposefully turning the UFO subject once again into one of ridicule and scorn purely in the interest of ratings, web-hits, newspaper sales etc.
In fact here’s a small selection of the online media reports in the last few days, granted they are all in fact referencing the same three events but with the wedding season in full swing and the barbecue season almost upon us than you can appreciate that this is but the tip of the iceberg…..
thisisbasingstoke.co.uk 04 July 2008 - Airborne lanterns lead to reports of UFO sightings
herald.ie July 03 2008 - Chinese lanterns blamed in UFO scare
thisisbasingstoke.co.uk 02 July 2008 - Sky lanterns spark UFO scare
thisisthesentinel.co.uk 26 June 2008 - WAS UFO SIGHTING JUST 'CHINESE LANTERNS'?
thewestonmercury.co.uk 26 June 2008 - 'UFO' identified as wedding lanterns
news.sbs.com.au 26 June, 2008 -UFO sightings blamed on wedding lanterns
telegraph.co.uk 25 June 2008 - Wedding lanterns may have sparked Welsh UFO alert
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/ 24 June 2008 - Wedding couple sparked UFO alert
SkyLanterns.com Promotional Video
From Wiki Travel Guide – TravellersPoint .com
Loi Kratong (Candles Festival) & Chiang Mai Lichtfestival
Thai people respect water as "mother" who gives lives. The main purpose of this festival is to pay respect to the water. A lady in the ancient Sukothai time, named Nang Noppamas, was the one who originated this festival. She created a container traditionally made from banana leaves and carrying offerings of flowers, incense, candle (the whole thing called "kratong") to ask the river to forgive people for the improper things including dirts they made to water during the previous time.
This festival takes place every year on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month when the water level is high and the climate is cooler. In these individualism days, the idea has been evaded, participants normally ask water spirits to sail away their troubles in their kratongs. Kratongs aren't the only things brought out for this holiday. Fireworks are plentiful and the Thai's often set aloft fire lanterns to send their blessings and wishes to the heavens as well. Some Thai's have been known to engage in fireworks fights so you do have to be careful sometimes. With a little caution though this holiday can be a blast!
For a short & informative presentation of Fire Lanterns and their history then check out the, “Sky Lanterns: Reaching Across the Heavens” PDF document which is published by the “Taipei City Government” and can be viewed here.
Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi (2007/2/28)
Lastly, we have the Flickr account of 'dans180' who has some beautiful pictures of the 2007 Pingsi Sky Lantern Festival as well as a small & concise history of the lantern & the event itself. The following is an excerpt:
“Pingsi is a rural township in the north eastern part of Taiwan . Located in a remote mountain area outside of Taipei and run through by Keelung river, it was a small coal mining town since the early 20th century.
During Lantern Festival, thousands of red and orange sky lanterns light the still night sky over the village of Pingsi creating a scene of unusual beauty."